Lesson 2 w/answersEcclesiastes 1:1 to 2:26; "Everything is Meaningless"
As mentioned in our last lesson, it is insightful to realize that Ecclesiastes was written by the man who had the most wisdom and riches of anyone in the world, and yet in Chapter 1 and on he declares everything to be meaningless.
The obvious conflict between Solomon declaring that "everything is meaningless" while simultaneously celebrating all that God had given him can only be rationalized by looking at everything in relation to God. It is only when man’s viewpoint is predominant that we quickly come to the same conclusion as King Solomon—that all is meaningless, futile, and without purpose.
Let’s read Chapters 1 and 2 this week and consider the following:
- Compare Eccl. 1:1-3 with Mark 8:36-38. What is the lesson God is teaching us in these verses?
- ANSWER: That our work on earth is futile, if not done for the Kingdom of God, it will lack purpose and accomplish nothing eternally.
- In verses 4-11 Solomon speaks of the cycles of the earth as it spins around the sun, all appearing to be eternal. He contrasts his thought that the earth remains forever with the realization that all life is fleeting. He concludes in verses 10-11 by stating there is nothing new under the sun. Is that still true today? With all of the advances in technology and medicine for example, is Solomon still right or are his thoughts out dated, outmoded?
- ANSWER: Man has not changed, neither has his environment, life is still fleeting and the earth continues on. Further, the desires of man’s heart and his sin nature go unchanged—truly there is nothing new under the sun.
- What is Solomon referring to in verse 11? (See also Genesis 40:23, and Eccl 9:15.)
- ANSWER 1: What one person does today will not be long remembered, so working to establish a name for yourself, or a legacy for your family is also meaningless.
- ANSWER 2: Seeking after and obtaining wisdom also won’t make a lasting difference; years from now no one will remember you or your wisdom.
- What is Solomon talking about in verses 12-18 and what does he mean "a chasing after the wind"?
- ANSWER 1: People trying to be something they are not (see verse 15).
- ANSWER 2: Futile and foolish is chasing after the wind, so it is with man’s efforts to create meaning for their lives.
- ANSWER 3: Better to seek God’s will for our lives and ask Him to help us prosper in that life and in accomplishing His will.
- If we were to restate verse 18 in today’s vernacular, we could say (fill in the blank) "Ignorance is _____". Can you point to an example in today’s life that points out what Solomon is saying, "the more knowledge the more grief"?
- ANSWER 1: Ignorance is bliss—the less wisdom and knowledge the more blissful.
- ANSWER 2: Look at the hectic paced, parallel processing, multi-tasking lives we lead today. All of our knowledge simply makes us miserable as we attempt to keep up with the flood of data, trying to comprehend and stay on top of all the technology coming at us faster than we can adopt, and in the end frustrated that with all of our "wisdom" and "knowledge" we can’t cure cancer, live in a violence free environment, correctly manage the environment, create peace, stop injustice, etc.—truly we become more miserable as we become wiser and more knowledgeable.
- Having found no lasting joy or peace in work, knowledge or wisdom Solomon now seeks to find it in pleasure. (see 2:1) What does he try first in verses two and three of the second chapter? How does man attempt to do this today?
- ANSWER 1: Solomon tries to find pleasure in having a good time, laughter, recreation, wine and similar diversions.
- ANSWER 2: Luxury lifestyles lived in excess, huge mansion like homes, big cars, big boats and planes, living the life of the "jetsetter".
- When that didn’t work what did Solomon then try to find pleasure in (see 2:4-11) and again, how do we see this today?
- ANSWER 1: Building big buildings, today we would see someone build and dedicate a college wing, or medical facility in their name.
- ANSWER 2: Gardening—huge gardens and other projects that occupy their time.
- ANSWER 3: Accumulated large wealth, lots of servants, lots of toys, lots money, gold and silver, plenty of cars, etc.
- ANSWER 4: Sought every pleasure he could think of "denied himself nothing" seeing it as reward for all his labor.
- ANSWER 5: In the end, when he looked back on it all everything was meaningless; it held no real value for him.
- In verses 12-16 Solomon turns to seeking wisdom for meaning and purpose in his life. What did he observe about wisdom in verse 13?
- ANSWER: That obtaining wisdom was better than folly; it had value and was as different as day and night.
- In verse 14 Solomon concludes that having wisdom prevents the wise man from walking in the darkness. What else did he conclude about the wise and the foolish in verse 14?
- ANSWER: That both die.
- Why was Solomon so upset about this observation? What did he conclude about his life in verse 16?
- ANSWER: That whether he was wise or foolish in the end we all die.
- Solomon states in verse 17 that he "hated life". Why? (see Eccl. 2:18-23)
- ANSWER: Because everything he had done he couldn’t enjoy, and he couldn’t take them with him. Everything he had done, everything he owned, would go to someone else to enjoy the fruits of his labor.
- How then does Solomon conclude can man find true happiness? (see Eccl. 2:24-26)
- ANSWER 1: We can only find satisfaction through God; then we can eat and drink and "find satisfaction" in our work.
- ANSWER 2: "For without God who can eat or find enjoyment?"
In summary, Solomon came to the conclusion that seeking satisfaction and fulfillment by working hard, or seeking wisdom, or"living for today" and seeking pleasure—none of these can ever bring true satisfaction. It is only through God that we will find peace, fulfillment, satisfaction during our brief time on earth. Rather than seeking the things that will supposedly make us happy, we need to seek God’s kingdom and His will for lives first; because only then will we find true meaning and happiness. This week let’s pray that God will renew within us a new sense of purpose and a keen awareness of His will for our lives as we continue to reflect on Solomon’s words.